Much as David Uren talks sense, in his Anzac Day Oz piece I can’t help but feel there is a core point he doesn’t see.
The thrust of his article is that the electorate won’t wear cutbacks, especially when the case for it is abstract and distant from their lives.
Across the world, governments are trying in vain to sell the merits of austerity to a sceptical public that does not think they should pick up the tab for economic problems they believe they did nothing to cause.
What he doesn’t see is that, apart the base response of vested interests, real electorate resistance in this country stems from the government, public sector and big corporate’s embrace of austerity for thee, but not for me – or for my mates.
Ordinary people have daily encounters with the petty tyrannies and incompetence of government. People, including most public servants, know that the labour productivity, management skillsets and performance management in the public sector are below par.
People see ridiculous policy and spending priorities, and incompetence in project execution. They know government has only expanded since the GFC. They see multi-billion dollar handouts to crony capitalists and phoney capitalists.
People see politicos, NGO mendicants and twitterati squeal in outrage about their sectional interests, and never once address the key question of where the money is coming from.
And people understand the concept of pissing money up against a wall to buy votes, and that it cannot last.
We shouldn’t mistake the political class and its scribbling, tweeting, tv-panel-sitting members, and spruikers for advocacy organisations on the public teat, as actually speaking for ordinary voters.
Equally, we shouldn’t mistake the interests of grossly overpaid salaried executives at the top – and often middle – of big corporates as being those of the economy or society. Too often big corporates behave exactly as big government, except it’s the shareholders rather than voters that get ripped off.
The key thing is that ordinary voters need a compact with both government and big corporates that they can believe in. Not mouthings about red tape from lifelong political insiders – on both sides of politics. Not econ-speak only understood by politicos – on both sides of politics. Not mealy-mouthed quibbling on the size and direction of the public sector designed to placate government workers in marginal seats.
And not waffle about enterprise from high-salaried employees who’ve never risked a single dollar of their own, while real entrepreneurs in small and medium business risk losing their homes to start a business.
You can’t argue for sharing the pain unless it is clear the pain will be shared.
You can’t argue that our future is at risk unless you tell the story why.
You certainly can’t bring the electorate along with you by speaking in abstractions and pandering to a bunch of whingers with access to a media megaphone.